As I write this it's going on 1a.m. and I've just finished stuffing all kinds of things into 4 large Army green duffle bags and one assault pack--camo-colored Army-issued backpack. (Forgive my typo's, I'm having to use my cell phone to email this to ACA). Tomorrow a large group will board our military flights & begin our journey to the other side of the world. As I've spent this time training with 100-plus people (can't give out specific information), I can't help but notice how well we represent the beautiful diversity of America. We are all ages from early 20's to graying hair. We are all genders and yes, preferences. We are all races and ethnicities to include different foreign accents.
We represent different regional American dialects from my Texas twang to the Jersey and New York slang. We are different professions from psychologist to orthopedic surgeon; K-9 dog handler; computer analyst; a General's driver. We are Americans who may not have otherwise crossed paths but are on our way to war. One of my favorite things about being a Soldier is the unique bonds and special friendships I may not have otherwise had.
As we get ready for that loooong flight, I wonder what thoughts are going through everyone's minds right now. I saw people on cell phones, no doubt calling loved ones for one last state-side conversation. I know I placed my rushed-yet-meaningful phone calls to my mom and nana. I had left them (and my dad) cards with a bunch of sentimental words written inside. I wanted them to be read at the same time-I knew they probably would keep the contents private, but I wanted the three of them together to support one another & to feel my love together to remind them we are all one loving family & they are a huge part of my life. So mom told me of the tears & silence & few words my cards created in their living room tonight. She said it was very emotional.
I wonder how everyone else has left their loved ones. What they've said to them. One Soldier told me today his mom kept crying last week & is worried for him. I can see why-his job in Iraq is more potentially dangerous than mine, as he will be out in the local towns and I'll mostly be within the security of a military compound.
As we prepare for our deployment which is now upon us, we are all probably thinking many similar thoughts tonight I'm sure. Mostly we are busy and exhausted. We've been out in this humid Georgia heat off and on for days on end for outdoor training, often skipping meals. Training to me seemed a bit more serious than in the past since I know I'm about to be dropped into an area where there are people who'd love to kill me. Odd feeling. I made sure I qualified on my first attempt on the M-16 firing range today. The sweat and body armor made it near impossible, but I did it. I can't imagine how skilled our combat arms Troops are who fight in worse conditions and succeed. I'm hoping I don't have to put this Ft. Benning training to use where I'm going. I'm hoping the gunshots stay far in the distance and to be honest I wish man could exist where bullets were never used at all. But then again, mother nature seems to put all creatures at odds if you think about it, so not sure how realistic my wish really is.
Natosha Monroe is an Army Reserve Mental Health Specialist currently stationed in Afghanistan. She is a counselor and PhD candidate passionate about increasing Troop access to counseling services. Her blog contents are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense in any way.